5 Minutes Prep - 2 Hour Interactive Lesson!
The Christmas story below is geared for literacy and low beginner ELL students. It is adapted from Callan’s Canadian Holidays for Low Beginner ESL, but is suitable for use in America as well. Further low beginner exercises on Christmas, with pictures, are found in that book. An audio CD and cloze exercise are also available. (For free material for mid-beginner or intermediate level, check out my blog post on Christmas from last year, here. Or why not try a jigsaw lesson for Christmas? Check out Callan's Holiday Jigsaws.)
Making your study of Canada for beginner and intermediate ESL come alive is easy with the use of some supplemental materials, like pictures, video and songs. Over the years I have collected about 15 images per province or territory from free Canada calendars, depicting such things as wheat fields, fishing villages, salmon, Douglas Fir trees and igloos that perfectly illustrate aspects of the jigsaws in Callan’s Beginner Canada Jigsaws or Callan’s Canada Jigsaws. I also like to use the video Destination Canada, found in most tourist shops. I show the section of the video related to a given province or territory, either with the sound off and my own narration for lower levels or with the sound on for higher levels.
Anyone who has taught grammar in a beginner level ESL or EFL class knows that the speed and accuracy with which students complete grammar worksheets is only very weakly correlated with their ability to use the given grammatical structure later in their own speech.
Jigsaws aren’t the only cooperative learning activity that I do in my classroom. Here is a fun activity for reviewing body parts. I divide the class into groups of three and give each group a sheet of chart paper and a felt marker. I ask the students to take turns being the artist.
Many new immigrants answer the phone in their own language. A Korean immigrant might answer, "Yabusayo?" A Chinese immigrant might answer, "Wei?" Often their thinking is that most people who call them speak their language anyway and those who don't will understand that they are simply answering in their own language.
Summer is the natural time for a unit on leisure. This unit is suitable for ESL or EFL students of all levels and has many opportunities for fieldtrips. Low beginners can learn the names of activites and practice "can" and "can't". "I can dance." "I can't dance." Higher level students can practice the intricate soft skills required to politely navigate invitations, both in speaking and in writing. Email is an obvious medium for invitations.
We often think of bargaining language as confined to situations like a garage sale or to the purchase of larger items like cars or homes. One of the most common negotiations most people will engage in at some point is who will pay the bill in a restaurant. Not only are there language and soft skills specific to this situation, many cultural assumptions are thrown into the mix. Countries, as well as the cultures within them, differ in their norms about who should pick up the tab and when. Learning the related idioms and other bargaining language but not cracking this cultural code and developing the soft skills to successfully navigate this interaction can lead to social awkwardness as exemplified in the story below.
As tax season approaches, we often teach a unit on money. With low beginners, I structure my unit around learning numbers, counting, asking and saying prices, the names of bills and coins, and finally the task of asking for change. I've put together some exercises for Canadian and American teachers on asking for change.
The most common ESL classroom activity for the first class back after New Year’s is writing resolutions. It’s a great writing activity for beginner level classes, as they practice the future tense and can make for some fun reading if they are posted in the classroom.
Imagine you were teaching abroad for a year's exchange in the country of Slavarnia, spending part of your time in classes learning the language of Slavar. It's not a real country so follow along with this hypothetical example, if you will. The biggest holiday of the year was called Glistin. Stores were closed and there were two stat holidays associated. Hallmark had come in and commercialized Glistin significantly, creating a large gift giving fairy as the main character. But actually, the roots of the holiday were religious. When the subject of the holiday came up in class, you read and played games centred around the Hallmark fairy, but you learned nothing about the historical and religious origins of the holiday. Apparently, the school was concerned about religious proselytizing and so kept the focus on the secular aspects. As a result, you remained in the dark about half of the holiday's significance. You had no interest in converting your religion, but just wanted to understand what was behind the holiday. How would you feel?